When reality becomes too much to bear,
twelve-year-old David retreats into a world of fantasy,
only to learn that fairy tales are no fairy tale, either.
The Book of Lost Things
Werewolves and Bridge Trolls and Nazis. Oh, My.
Once upon a time there was a story about stories.
“These stories were very old, as old as people, and they had survived because they were very powerful indeed. These were the tales that echoed in the head long after the books that contained them were cast aside. They were both an escape from reality and an alternative reality themselves. They were so old, and so strange, that they had found a kind of existence independent of the pages they occupied. The world of the old tales existed parallel to ours, as David’s mother had once told him, but sometimes the wall separating the two became so thin and brittle that the two worlds started to blend into each other.
That was when the trouble started.
That was when the bad things came.
That was when the Crooked Man began to appear to David.”
John Connolly combines fact, fiction and folklore in ‘The Book of Lost Things’, a clever and disturbing coming-of-age tale. This book-about-a-book centers around a crucial time in the life of David, a twelve-year-old boy living in World War II period England.
Mourning the loss of his beloved mother, David finds the new life and new family his father has built unacceptable. He begins to step into a world of books, of the stories his mother held so dear, and the newer, stranger ones he has just discovered in the library of his new home. When strained relationships and the anxieties of war make his existence unbearable, the books step into David’s world, until he enters a place where “happily ever after” means “eaten quickly”.
David soon discovers that leaving this new realm is not nearly as easy as entering it. His only hope is to find a weakened king, who holds the source of all knowledge – a legendary book, The Book of Lost Things. As he seeks out the king and his book, David also discovers that he has not come into this new land alone. Every thing he has feared appears in an array of forms, all of which David must confront as he travels. Every thing to be feared appears as the Crooked Man, who proves to be the most formidable of foes.
“The Crooked Man believed that whatever evil lay in men was there from the moment of their conception, and it was only a matter of discovering its nature in a child. The boy David had as much rage and hurt as any child that the Crooked Man had yet encountered, but still he resisted his advances. It was time for one last gamble…”
Connolly’s bridge between the chills of childhood and the anxieties of adult life is riddled with trepidation and triumph (and guarded by some rather unpleasant trolls). While told in a fairy tale format, the author gracefully blends the dark aspects of reality into a fantastic landscape, and brings the story full circle in a thoughtful conclusion. A master of language, his simple eloquence is as enchanting as it is terrifying. Younger readers will appreciate a plot infused with twisted tales and lessons to ponder (think Chaucer meets Stephen King), while adults will enjoy the creative allusions.
‘The Book of Lost Things’ is an engrossing and insightful read; fine for a day at the beach, perfect for a night under the covers (preferably dark and stormy).
Rating: ‘The Book of Lost Things’ by John Connolly receives seven out of seven communist dwarves. You’ll have to read the book.